Adverse Childhood Events in American Indian/Alaska Native Populations

Published:November 20, 2020DOI:


      Adverse childhood experiences are linked to deleterious outcomes in adulthood. Certain populations have been shown to be more vulnerable to adversity in childhood than others. Despite these findings, research in this area lacks an empirical investigation that examines adverse childhood experiences among American Indian and Alaska Native populations using large, nationally representative data. As such, the authors have compiled what they believe is the largest empirical investigation of adverse childhood experiences among American Indian and Alaska Native individuals to date.


      Data were collected from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 34 states (2009–2017), whereby all individuals self-report as American Indian and Alaska Native (N=3,894). Adverse childhood experience scores were calculated and further stratified by sex, age, household income, education, employment status, sexual orientation, Census region, and state. In addition, frequencies and prevalence of each adverse childhood experience domain (stratified by the same categories) were calculated. Analysis was conducted in 2019.


      The average adverse childhood experience score among American Indians and Alaska Natives was 2.32, higher than those of individuals identifying as White (1.53), Black (1.66), and Hispanic (1.63). Female participants had a higher average adverse childhood experience score than male participants (2.52 vs 2.12). Generally, younger individuals and those with lower incomes reported higher adverse childhood experience scores, whereas those with higher educational attainment reported lower scores.


      Compared with the few studies among American Indian and Alaska Native populations that have used either smaller samples or nontraditional adverse childhood experience data (i.e., asking parents about their children's experiences), these results present overall higher adverse childhood experience averages than previously published studies. Nevertheless, aligning with other research on adverse childhood experiences, female individuals, younger adults, and sexual minorities reported higher adverse childhood experiences scores than other categories in their respective demographics.
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